cat·​a·​comb | \ ˈka-tə-ˌkōm How to pronounce catacomb (audio) \

Definition of catacomb

1 : a subterranean cemetery of galleries with recesses for tombs usually used in plural
2 : something resembling a catacomb: such as
a : an underground passageway or group of passageways
b : a complex set of interrelated things the endless catacombs of formal education— Kingman Brewster †1988

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Synonyms for catacomb


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Did You Know?

About forty Christian catacombs have been found near the roads that once led into Rome. After the decline of the Roman empire these cemeteries were forgotten, not to be rediscovered until 1578. Catacomb has come to refer to different kinds of underground chambers and passageways. The catacombs of Paris are abandoned stone quarries that were not used for burials until 1787. The catacombs built by a monastery in Palermo, Sicily, for its deceased members later began accepting bodies from outside the monastery; today you may wander through looking at hundreds of mummified corpses propped against the catacomb walls, dressed in tattered clothes that were once fashionable.

Examples of catacomb in a Sentence

explored the catacombs looking for evidence about burial customs of that ancient society
Recent Examples on the Web In recent years, the outlines of the catacomb structure have been emerging from the soil. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "Investors look to buck a four-week losing streak, sending global stocks higher," 28 Sep. 2020 Authorities at the monastery — renowned for its extensive system of catacombs dating from the 11th century — were initially slow to react to warnings that the virus was spreading., "‘Tip of the iceberg:’ Nations struggle to count virus toll," 17 Apr. 2020 Top off your day by flying a kite or venturing through the maze of catacomb-like bunkers and batteries at Fort Casey Historical State Park. Drake Wilson, Sunset Magazine, "Find Wine, Whales, and Water Adventures in Washington’s Scenic Puget Sound," 3 Feb. 2020 The grounds are open during daylight hours, with the annual Halloween cemetery and catacombs tour set for 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Admission is $3-$10. Chris Kaltenbach,, "Tours of Baltimore’s Westminster catacombs are creepy now, but not like tours in the ’70s," 31 Oct. 2019 Now, a team of archaeologists led by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has revealed five more lion mummies, likely cubs, discovered at the Bubasteion necropolis—literally, a catacomb of cat mummies—in Saqqara. Antoaneta Roussi, National Geographic, "Very rare lion mummies discovered in Egypt," 23 Nov. 2019 Between the first and fifth centuries, catacombs were dug along the coastline just north of Klima, and the waves have clawed away at the cliffs, exposing the graves’ arched, shadowy openings. Peter Rock, New York Times, "Around Milos, Swimming the Aegean Sea," 14 Nov. 2019 The catacombs, long abused as a temporary home for vagrants and even as a handy storage space for the church’s janitors, had been cleaned up some, but still were in rough shape. Chris Kaltenbach,, "Tours of Baltimore’s Westminster catacombs are creepy now, but not like tours in the ’70s," 31 Oct. 2019 Those catacombs, active between the second and fourth centuries, were recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site in 2015. Washington Post, "Massive modern catacombs set to open in Jerusalem," 29 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catacomb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of catacomb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for catacomb

Middle English catacumb, Middle French catacombe, probably from Old Italian catacomba, from Late Latin catacumbae, plural

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Time Traveler for catacomb

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The first known use of catacomb was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Catacomb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce catacomb (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of catacomb

: an underground place where people are buried

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